Woman Sues Over Bone Tissue

By Julie Montanaro
September 26, 7:30pm

There's a critical court hearing this week for a Tallahassee woman who is the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit.

Kay Phelps claims that cadaver tissue implanted in her jaw during oral surgery was never screened for HIV, hepatitis, syphilis or any other infectious diseases.

"It was horrible. It was very scary."

When Kay Phelps got a letter in the mail telling her she may have received tainted bone tissue during dental surgery, she got angry and depressed, and says Florida-based Tutogen Medical should be held accountable for failing to screen that tissue for infectious diseases.

"It just makes you want to lash out at them because of their neglect. I mean, it's inhumane," Phelps said.

Phelps has had three blood tests since last fall to be sure she hasn't contracted any diseases. So far she's received a clean bill of health, but her lawyer says Tutogen Medical should pay for all future testing for Kay Phelps and the others in Florida who may have received that potentially tainted tissue.

"The treating doctor for Ms. Phelps indicated there's at least three patients that were in her similar situation. I'd be surprised if in the Tallahassee area, there weren't dozens if not a hundred persons involved," said Phelps' attorney Tom Thompson.

The FDA says Tutogen got the skin and bone tissue from a New Jersey company that may have been illegally harvesting it from corpses. A class action lawsuit has been filed there too.

Kay Phelps says whether her claim goes forward in Florida or she joins the suit in New Jersey, she will do all she can to make sure this never happens again.

"I'm just scared that these people are not going to be held responsible for their actions and that's what I would really like to see done," said Phelps.

The law firm representing Tutogen Medical says it does not comment on pending litigation, but Tutogen's web site says its preservation and sterilization process is "extremely rigorous" and it believes that "all tissue distributed by Tutogen, including that from Biomedical Tissue Services, is safe."

Tutogen's motion to dismiss this lawsuit will be heard in a Tallahassee courtroom on Thursday.